Monthly Archives: May 2004

Cheaper By The Dozen

I was very pleasantly surprised by this film. The first half is absolutely hilarious. It takes the chaos of a household with 12 kids, and channels all of that chaos into laughs. I roared out loud in places, and giggled madly in others. (“You soaked his underwear in meat. That is so wrong. Funny, but wrong.”) The second half of the film felt weaker and less focussed. It concentrates more on the stresses of the situation the family finds themselves in with an eye to resolving it neatly in the happy ending. It pops up a number of story lines I would like to have seen more of, but the film was just too short to look at the all. (Note to self: must watch more teen angst comedies. Also, must try to catch some Smallville.) Basically, it’s an excellent family comedy, in the same vein as Parenthood. Anyone who has survived having a toddler around the house will appreciate it.

The Day After Tomorrow

If you can ignore the crap science (and nnnggghhhh, believe me, it takes some intense ignoring, but fortunately they get most of it out of the way at the start) this is a pretty good disaster movie. The story is nothing special (in the midst of a global superstorm, a father journeys to find his son, who is stuck in New York), but the special effects and cinematography more than make up for it. The imagery is breathtaking, and the city-scale effects are the best I’ve ever seen. The political backdrop is touchingly naive, but real-world political machinations don’t really make for a good summer blockbuster, do they?

The Pledge

Intense and thoughtful drama about a policeman who, on the day of his retirement, promises the mother of a murdered young girl that he will find her killer. Not a happy film by any means, but the story is powerful, and the performances from the truly stellar cast are excellent. The emotions on display are strong and raw. Almost every moment of the film is filled with some kind of pain, but it’s not a tear-jerker. It left me feeling drawn out and harrowed, yet emotionally satisfied at a fundamental level. Highly recommended, if you’re prepared for it.


Juvenile, in places very shakily acted, but really quite funny. Jason Lee’s uptight Brodie gets tiresome after a while, but he ends up sympathetic enough (especially in his support of TS’s romance) to be worth rooting for at the end. I didn’t know much about this film going into it, apart from the fact that it’s Kevin Smith’s poorly received follow-up to Clerks, which I also haven’t seen yet. I hadn’t expected it to be a romance, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that there are two love stories at the heart of all the comedy. Note that it’s not a “romantic comedy” in the chick-flick sense; it’s a geek comedy filled with with Star Wars and comic book references, that also happens to feature some very touching romance. Nice.

John Sandford – Naked Prey

The latest Lucas Davenport novel is a relatively weak addition to the series, I felt. The web of criminal behaviour on show is more complicated than previous Prey books. The killer doesn’t feel so dangerous and deranged as other villains in the series–he comes across more as an ordinary criminal who has just gone a few steps too far over the line. Davenport himself is less edgy and intense, and he and Del Capslock do an oddly nonchalant buddy act throughout the book. The danger just isn’t personal. Most of the book takes place in the far North of Minnesota, well outside of Davenport’s normal stomping grounds, and it made me wonder why this was a Davenport novel at all, and didn’t feature a local, more story-appropriate detective as the hero. Oh well.

The Hadrian Hotel, Wall, Northumberland

The Hadrian pitches itself above the standard village pub, and its food gets most of the way there. The steak and ale pie I had was rich, but on the plain side. (The bite I had of Abi’s lamb steak, however, was gorgeous.) The service was friendly, but a little slow. Portions were generous, though, and well-priced.

The Crown Inn, Humshaugh, Northumberland

Just exactly what pub food should be: hearty, tasty, and uncomplicated. The portions are big for the price, and rich in flavour. The service is good, friendly, and fast. It’s the kind of place you leave with a smile on your face and a satisfied hand resting on your rounded belly. Yum!

The Railway Inn, Fourstones, Northumberland

Nice little village pub in the heart of rural Northumberland. Big portions of decent food at very reasonable prices. The beer garden is very pleasant in the sunshine, and the cosy, old-fashioned heart of the pub looks just right for settling down with a pint (or two) at the end of a long hike.

The George Hotel, Chollerford, Northumberland

The George is a nice enough hotel for staying in, but it is let down by barely competent serving staff in the restaurant and a chef lacking in both imagination and (apparently) tastebuds. (Top tip: if you don’t think there’s enough room on the table for something, don’t put it down there.) The chicken liver paté I had as a starter looked like it had been dropped from a great height onto a pile of indifferent salad. Not only that, but the two meagre wafers of melba toast were barely enough to contain a single scraping. Not only that, but the salad was swimming in a horribly pungent mustard dressing; the underside of the paté was coated with the stuff, and I had to scrape about half of it off to get rid of its flavour. The leg of lamb that followed was better, but not much above the level of pub food. At breakfast the next morning I had scrambled eggs, and they were dry, rubbery, and flavourless. Conclusion: stay at the hotel by all means, just don’t eat there.